Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
You're My Cutie!!
High school second year Madoka loves cute and pretty guys – but she's perfectly happy to leave them on the pages of her favorite manga as she realizes that she's unlikely to find her ideal younger cutie in the real world. That starts to change when her father hires high school first year Shikura to help out at the family diner. Shikura's perfect on paper, but Madoka quickly realizes that he's got more walls than a maze, and when a girl from his school pops into the diner and immediately starts treating him like an object, she understands why. Can Madoka show Shikura that not all girls just see him as some sort of walking pin-up – and will that lead to romance?
Madoka is just your average shoujo heroine entranced by her favorite trope – the adorable, innocent, slightly younger boy. But unlike many a manga character, she's also largely aware that he only exists in the realm of fiction. She loves to read about that kind of character, but she also understands that she's not likely to find him in real life, because people are more complicated than that. Framing her this way makes You're My Cutie!! start out on a much more positive note than many similar stories, because we understand that even if romance develops between Madoka and the cute younger boy her dad hires to help out at their restaurant, it won't be because he's just Madoka's “type.” This sets it apart from works like Lovesick Ellie, where the heroine is so engrossed in her fantasy life of the perfect boy that she bumbles into a relationship with him while simultaneously annoying him. Madoka, despite getting off on the wrong foot with Shikura, actively works to make sure that he knows she's not just after his looks, meaning that both hero and heroine have to work to even get their relationship off the ground.
Madoka certainly has her work cut out for her, though. When she first meets Shikura, she's struck by the fact that he looks so much like her ideal, and the shock that he's actually standing there in front of her makes her stare at him without quite realizing what she's doing. When Shikura then drops his phone and she tries to give it back to him, his hackles are very firmly up, and he snaps at her as if she was doing something much more sinister than returning his lost property. At first Madoka simply thinks that he's a prickly, unpleasant person, but it's not long before she realizes what's really going on. A girl from Shikura's school comes into the restaurant with her father and upon spotting Shikura immediately starts behaving badly: she takes pictures of him without his consent, starts giggling and fangirling, and just generally makes a nuisance of herself. Putting the pieces together, Madoka promptly asks the girl to delete the photo, at which point the girl lashes out at Madoka that Shikura doesn't “belong” to her until the girl's father basically drags her out. The incident makes Madoka realize that Shikura's good looks have been nothing but a curse to him, causing him to be objectified by girls enamored of his appearance. It's the flip side of the trope of the “prince” with his fan club, and instead of being flattered or unbothered by the girls, Shikura is made to feel intensely uncomfortable. It's tantamount to a form of bullying for him, and it's why he reacted so badly to Madoka at their first meeting – he assumed that she was just like those girls, using his phone as an excuse to talk to or touch him.
Madoka immediately rises to the occasion, getting the story off on the right foot. When the girl returns with others from school, she insists that Shikura hide so that she can run them off. This being a romance manga, things naturally end in a different way than she had planned, with Shikura calling her his girlfriend, but Madoka, far from being giddy, continues to go out of her way to treat Shikura like an individual and to work at making him feel comfortable around her. Yes, she develops a crush by the end of volume one, and yes, by the end of volume two it's looking pretty mutual, but there's a real effort made on her part to make sure that Shikura doesn't feel uncomfortable in her presence, one that continues into their first sort-of date in the second book. She acknowledges his trauma and his emotional needs, and that's not something that always happens in romance manga (or romance novels) for any demographic. Their relationship is based on genuinely liking each other's personalities and mutual effort, and that makes the whole thing feel very rewarding.
Volume one, with more of its focus on that, is the stronger of the two books, although volume two isn't anything to sneeze at. It does, however, introduce a potential rival character in the form of a third-year from Madoka's school (Shikura attends a different one) who models. He's also just her physical type, but he also recognizes that she likes Shikura, so at this point he may be less of a rival and more just a supportive friend, although it really is too early to tell. If nothing else, Shikura may think he's a rival for Madoka, which could push him into acting. That seems to be more likely, as his hackles are definitely up the minute he realizes the other boy was on the cover of the magazine Madoka was previously reading. But what's interesting is that Shikura isn't entirely comfortable with his own budding feelings for Madoka, to the point where he's hesitant to admit them to her. His experiences with girls have been so unpleasant and traumatic that even though he knows that Madoka isn't likely to act like them – and in fact has gone out of her way to keep him feeling comfortable even after a confession at the end of the first volume – it's not easy for him to overcome his past. This gives Shikura a bit more grounding and makes his emotions feel more real, because he's not going to just “get over it;” he needs time to fully come to terms with Madoka and to trust that she's really who she seems to be.
It's worth mentioning that there isn't really any trace of the “not like other girls” trope here. At the festival the two attend in the second volume, another girl from Shikura's school apologizes for not stopping her friends from objectifying him and making him uncomfortable, so we do see that Madoka's not the only sane woman in the story. She also really struggles to make sure that she doesn't freak him out, which again makes her feel more human than she might otherwise, reminding us that nothing emotional comes easily for anyone. Madoka's dad comes the closest to being a walking stereotype as he frets over his daughter's romantic future, but on the whole this is quite well done, with solid, believable characters, nice enough art, and a relationship that, even if it doesn't work out, will be one where we can all say that at least Madoka and Shikura tried.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B-
+ Madoka and Shikura have more depth than you might expect, art does a good job of showing Madoka's relaxed sense of style. Relationship takes work on both characters' part.
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